Penguins Open Thanksgiving Tournament vs. Nicholls State on Saturday

Jenna Hirsch (Photo by Ron Stevens)
Jenna Hirsch (Photo by Ron Stevens)
Youngstown State vs. Nicholls State
Date & Time Saturday, Nov. 29, at 2 p.m. ET
Location Gentry Center
Radio 570wkbn.com
Video OVC Digital Network
Live Stats Stat Broadcast
Live Tweets @YSUsports | @YSUWomensHoops |@javogel34
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The Youngstown State women's basketball team will try to match its best start in 18 years when it starts the Teresa Phillips Thanksgiving Classic against Nicholls State on Saturday at 2 p.m. Eastern. The Penguins will also play tournament host Tennessee State on Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee. Live audio of Saturday's game will be available on 570wkbn.com, and Sunday's game will be on 570 WKBN and iHeartRadio. Video of both games will be streamed on the OVC Digital Network.

YSU improved to 4-0 after beating Bucknell 69-54 on Tuesday. The Penguins had an 11-1 run to take a 14-point lead midway through the second half, and they ended the game by scoring the final nine points to hold off the Bison. YSU has won its first four games for the second time in three years, but it has not started 5-0 since the 1996-97 season.

YSU has already matched its non-conference win total from last season, and it has been drastically better both offensively and defensively. YSU is plus-20.5 in scoring margin so far after being minus-12.8 last November.

YSU returns three starters but just five letter winners from last year's squad. Heidi Schlegel is a preseason First-Team All-Horizon League pick after averaging 20 points in 2013-14. The Penguins have a Horizon League high seven freshmen on the roster.

A Win Would...

  • Give YSU a 5-0 start for the first time since 1996-97 and for just the third time at the Division I level (started in 1981-82).
  • Improve YSU's record to 3-0 against teams from the Southland Conference.
  • Be YSU's first against a team from Louisiana.
  • Be YSU's first in Tennessee since 1988.

On This Date

  • Youngstown State is 7-5 all-time in games played on Nov. 29 and has won five of its last seven contests on the date.
  • YSU's last win on Nov. 29 came in 2007 when it beat Toledo 55-48 at Beeghly Center. A year later, YSU suffered a 99-42 loss at Pittsburgh in a Thanksgiving tournament.

Scouting Nicholls State

  • Nicholls State has played just twice so far this season and is 1-1. The Colonels lost 63-52 at Arkansas on Nov. 14, and they beat Southern University New Orleans, an NAIA program, 87-84 on Nov. 18.
  • Junior guard Emani White scored 37 points in the win over SUNO and is averaging 23.5 points. She led the Southland in scoring at 16.9 points per game last year. Nicholls State is averaging eight 3-pointers made and four blocks per game, and the Colonels are plus-5.0 in turnover margin.
  • Nicholls State returns four starters from last year's squad that finished 17-14. The Southland coaches picked the Colonels to finish sixth in the conference, and the conference SID's put them in a tie for fourth.

Series with Nicholls State

  • YSU and Nicholls State will be meeting for the first time.

YSU vs. Southland Teams

  • YSU is 2-0 all-time against teams from the Southland Conference. The Penguins beat Lamar 72-62 on Dec. 22, 1992, at UNLV, and they edged Sam Houston State 83-81 on Dec. 3, 1993, at Missouri.

YSU Playing in Tennessee

  • YSU is 4-16 all-time while playing in the state of Tennessee. Three of those wins were at Austin Peay, and the other was at Tennessee State in 1988.
  • YSU has played just three times in the Volunteer State since leaving the Ohio Valley Conference in 1988. They played at No. 3/4 Tennessee in 1992, and they played Vanderbilt and Central Michigan at Vanderbilt in 2002.

Recapping Bucknell

Four Penguins scored in double figures, and Youngstown State went on two big runs in the second half to beat Bucknell 69-54 on Tuesday evening at Beeghly Center.

YSU held a 44-40 lead at the 16:23 mark of the second half before scoring 11 of the next 12 points to forge out to a 55-41 lead with 11:56 left. YSU then scored the final nine points of the game once Bucknell got within six with 3:41 remaining.

The Penguins were 9-for-17 from 3-point range while Bucknell was 4-for-17. YSU also outscored Bucknell 16-6 from the free-throw line.

Quick Notes

  • Janae Jackson had 15 points in 13 career games before scoring 13 against the Bison.
  • Heidi Schlegel led YSU with four assists. She is averaging 3.2 assists per game, which is nearly double the 1.7 she averaged last year.
  • In addition to Jackson's 13 points, YSU got 12 more points from its reserves. That led to a 25-13 edge in bench points.
  • After missing its first seven field-goal attempts, YSU shot 43.1 percent the remainder of the game.
  • Latisha Walker made her first career 3-point attempt on YSU's first possession of the second half as the shot clock was winding down.
  • Kelsea Newman made two 3s and assisted on another bucket in YSU's 11-1 run that put it ahead 55-41.

Off to Much Better Start in 2014-15

  • The start to 2014-15 has gone supremely better for YSU than the start to 2013-14, which was Coach John Barnes' first season.
  • The Penguins are 4-0 and have already doubled the number of Division I non-conference wins that they had last year, outscoring opponents by an average of 20.5 points in the process. YSU is 4-0 for the second time in the last three years and is looking to start 5-0 for the first time since 1996-97. The Penguins were 1-4 last November.
  • YSU was 4-9 in non-conference play last season with wins over non-Division I programs Ohio Valley and Malone. The Penguins didn't have their second win over a Division I team until Dec. 21 against Vermont.
  • YSU is averaging 72.5 points through the first four games of 2014-15 and has scored at least 68 points in each. The Penguins didn't reach 68 points until their eighth game last year and didn't score 68 against a Division I team until the win over Vermont on Dec. 21.
  • The Penguins ended up hitting their stride at the start of Horizon League play last year when they won their first six conference games. From the start of league play last year to the present, YSU is 15-7 over its last 22 games.

Winning With Defense

  • A big reason for Youngstown State's 4-0 start has been its defense. The Penguins are holding teams to an average of 52.0 points per game, which is the best mark in the Horizon League.
  • The most points YSU has allowed is 61 to Niagara in the season opener. And the Penguins have held three of their first four opponents under 55 points, which is something they did just three times in 2013-14. Opponents are shooting 34.7 percent against the Penguins.
  • Teams scored 71.9 points on average against the Penguins last season while shooting 40.7 percent.

Balanced Scoring Prevalent Early

  • YSU has been very balanced in the scoring column in its first four games this year.
  • Three players have led the Penguins in scoring in their first four games. Heidi Schlegel has been the top scorer twice, and freshmen Nikki Arbanas and Indiya Benjamin have both been the top scorer once.
  • All five of YSU's starters have reached double figures at least once, and reserves Kelsea Newman and Janae Jackson have also scored more than 10 points. That means seven different Penguins have reached double figures in the first four games of the season.
  • YSU has four players averaging double figures, up from two last year, and six are averaging at least five.

Freshman Guards Shining

  • Freshman starting guards Nikki Arbanas and Indiya Benjamin have been in the spotlight in the first four games of their careers.
  • Arbanas scored 25 points while making 8-of-9 of her field goal attempts in her debut against Niagara. She was named the Horizon League Freshman of the Week for her performance. For the year, Arbanas is averaging 11.0 points and 3.0 assists while shooting 47.8 percent from the field.
  • Benjamin is the first Penguin in 13 years (Jen Perugini) to score in double figures in the first four games of her freshman year. Benjmain is averaging 12.8 points and 4.5 assists, and she leads the Horizon League with a 4.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Program on the Rise

  • YSU has been on a definite upward trend over the last four years. The Penguins have finished in the top three in the Horizon League and advanced to the semifinals of the conference tournament in back-to-back seasons. YSU is off to a 4-0 start for the second time in the last three years.
  • Last year, YSU finished with its second-best record since joining the Horizon League in 2001-02 at 10-6. The Penguins' 21 league wins over the past two years is almost as much as their combined 22 league wins over the previous six years combined.
  • In 2012-13, YSU had its best record to date in the Horizon League by finishing 11-5. The Penguins finished second in the conference and advanced to the tournament semifinals for the first time. YSU also earned the league's automatic bid to the WNIT.

Offense has Flourished Under Barnes

  • Statistically, Youngstown State's offense last season was the program's best in at least a decade. Among the highlights, YSU's 70.3 points per game scoring average was the best since 1999-00, and the .404 shooting percentage was the best since 2001-02.
  • After a rough five-game November where YSU shot 33 percent and averaged 59.4 points, it shot 41.9 percent while averaging 72.4 points over the season's final four months.
  • YSU's first four games have hinted that 2014-15 could be even better as the offense has improved across the board.

Schlegel Returns After Breakout Season

  • After a breakout junior season, Youngstown State senior Heidi Schlegel has been named Preseason First-Team All-Horizon League in the conference poll and by College Sports Madness.
  • Schlegel averaged 20 points and 8.0 rebounds to earn First-Team All-Horizon League honors in 2013-14. She surpassed 1,000 career points last year, and she set new school records with 192 free throws made and 238 free throws attempted. Her 19 20-point games were the most by a Penguin in 26 years, and the 621 points she scored were the fifth-most in school history.
  • With YSU's more-balanced attack, Schlegel is averaging 14 points and 10.5 rebounds over the first four games of 2014-15. As the focal point of other teams' defensive game plans, she is averaging 3.2 assists, almost double the 1.7 she averaged last year.

Walker: The Blocker

  • Senior forward Latisha Walker had six blocks at Radford last Saturday, which is tied for the fourth most in a game in program history. She had five of those blocks in the first nine minutes as YSU built an 18-5 lead.
  • The last player to block at least six shots in a game was Tara Fleming at Xavier on Dec. 31, 2004. Walker's previous high for a game was three.
  • Walker, a transfer from Xavier, has blocked 43 shots in her 35 career games at Youngstown State. Her total ranks tied for the 17th-most in program history, and her 1.2 blocks per game average is second-best.

3-Pointers Integral Part of Offense

  • YSU has made at least 200 3-pointers in four straight seasons, including 234 last season. Prior to the last four seasons, the highest season total was 199. YSU is one of just 22 programs in the country to have made at least 200 in each of the last four seasons.
  • The Penguins shot 34.1 percent from beyond the arc last season, which was its best percentage since the 2004-05 season. They are shooting 42 percent from distance this season while averaging 9.3 triples per game.
  • The Penguins were really zoned in from distance in league play. The Guins led the conference during league play with 9.1 3-pointers per game while shooting 38.7 percent. The Guins averaged 6.1 3s and shot 29.6 percent from the arc during the 2013-14 non-conference season.

Seven Freshmen on Roster

  • Youngstown State has seven talented true freshmen on its roster who come to YSU with tons of collective accolades. Five of the seven players finished their careers as their high school's all-time scoring leader, and four were named first-team all-state. Additionally, three players led their high school teams to their best seasons in more than two decades, and Kelley Wright posted the most varsity wins in Michigan's history.
  • No other team in the Horizon League or Ohio has seven true freshmen on its roster. Six of the other eight schools in the Horizon League have four or fewer true freshmen, and seven of the other 12 schools in Ohio have four or fewer true freshmen.
  • Youngstown State has seven true freshmen on its roster for the fifth time in its 40-year history. The last time seven freshmen were on the same team was 1994-95, and three of those seven freshmen – Colleen Cook, Caroline McCombs and Ann Marie Martin – are now in YSU's Athletics Hall of Fame. The other three seasons with seven freshmen on the roster are 1988-89, 1985-86 and 1977-78.
  • Before Indiya Benjamin and Nikki Arbanas started the season opener, the last time YSU had two freshmen in the starting lineup was March 6, 2010, at Milwaukee (Brandi Brown and Maryum Jenkins). The last time YSU had three freshmen start was Feb. 28, 2009, at UIC (Camisha Alexander, Kenya Middlebrooks and Macey Nortey).